Binder & Clavecin Roïal : Chamber Music at the Dresden Court

Ricardo Magnus, Ensemble Klangschmelze
Etcetera KTC 1753

The programme note for this intriguing CD is quick to answer the first of two obvious questions raised by the title. The Clavecin Roïal is a type of square piano, specially reconstructed for this recording, which has the facility to change from one timbre to another at short notice. In fact, under the fingers of Ricardo Magnus it is not so much rapidly changing tones but its constantly tinkling presence, soothing and absolutely charming, that is its distinguishing feature. To my ears, it combines the virtues of the clavichord and the early piano. In his introduction to the instrument, the builder Johann Gottlob Wagner announced it has a number of stops which reproduce the sounds of clavecin, harp, lute, pantaleon, and fortepiano – some explanations raise as many questions as they answer! The second question – who or what is a Binder? – is answered almost as quickly. Christlieb Siegmund Binder is the composer of the chamber music featured on the CD: two keyboard quartets and a trio for obbligato keyboard and flute, all receiving their premiere performances, as well as a further trio for obbligato keyboard and viola. This innocuously entertaining repertoire, sensitively and expressively played by Magnus and his ensemble, helps further to confirm the role of the Dresden Court as an important focus of music-making in 18th-century Germany. Binder was born and died in Dresden, and in his youth played the pantaleon, a type of large hammered dulcimer invented by Pantaleon Hebenstreit, so would certainly have appreciated the Clavecin Roïal’s ability to reproduce its sound.

D. James Ross